Daily NBA Fix 3-2-04: Mark Cuban Says D-League Better Option Than NCAA

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Welcome to your Daily NBA Fix for Sunday, March 2, the morning after there wasn’t a single close (three points or less) finish from a slate of nine games.

But that gives us time to ponder the notion of whether or not an NBA owner ever bought a more aptly named team than Mark Cuban when he purchased the Dallas Mavericks. The maverick owner (yeah, you see what I did there) thinks it’s time for elite young players to buck the decades-old convention of trundling off to a college campus.

For years, it was the only game in town. A player had to go to college before turning pro and he had to stay there for four years. Spencer Haywood changed the game a bit when he declared himself ready to be drafted after his sophomore season at the University of Detroit. Because the NBA required a player wait four years before turning pro, Haywood signed with the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1969.

In less than a decade, players were routinely leaving the college scene early, with the next line crossed by the ABA again when the Utah Stars signed Virginia high schooler Moses Malone in 1974. The next season, prep stars Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby jumped straight to the NBA.

But until the 1990s, Dawkins and Willoughby were the only preps-to-pros stories. After a rash of high schoolers entered the NBA in the 1990s and early 21st century, the NBA adopted an age requirement that set the atmosphere to where it is currently, with players heading off to college for a year before the elites—most of them, anyway—declare for the draft as soon as possible after one season on campus.

That brings us back to Cuban.

The Mavericks owner said he thinks the best thing an elite prospect can do coming out of high school is to jump to the NBA Development League, which has a minimum age of 18 (the NBA limit is 19 with talk of raising it).

“The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com. “So if the goal is to just graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.”

Cuban says the NBA could work with nearby  schools to provide educational opportunities for players who jump to the D-League, suggesting the league could guarantee college tuition for those players, even if they don’t make it in the NBA.

“We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education,” Cuban said. “If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that’s not a student-athlete. That’s ridiculous.”

It’s intriguing, but would require a seismic shift in thinking.

On the court, the Heat, Wizards, Rockets, Pacers, Nets, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves and Clippers were winners.

The Daily NBA Fix will still deliver highlights, game capsules, the top and bottom five players, the dreaded Goose Egg, Clean and Sober and Ironman awards, we’ll recap who’s circling the drain, there will be some interesting pieces of relevant (and not-so-relevant) information and we’ll look at today’s daily lines for those people who like to wager a buck or two.

Check out the highlights below from the night that was, then get into the game capsules (home teams in CAPS).

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